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of heart, he was with Lucie again, and she told him it was all a
dream, and he had never gone away. A pause of forgetfulness, and
then he had even suffered, and had come back to her, dead and at
peace, and yet there was no difference in him. Another pause of
oblivion, and he awoke in the sombre morning, unconscious where
he was or what had happened, until it flashed upon his mind, “this
is the day of my death!” Thus, had he come through the hours, to
the day when the fifty-two heads were to fall. And now, while he
was composed, and hoped that be could meet the end with quiet
heroism, a new action began in his waking thoughts, which was
very difficult to master.
He had never seen the instrument that was to terminate his life.
How high it was from the ground, how many steps it had, where
he would be stood, how he would be touched, whether the
touching hands would be dyed red, which way his face would be
turned, whether he would be the first, or might be the last: these
and many similar questions, in nowise directed by his will,
obtruded themselves over and over again, countless times. Neither
were they connected with fear: he was conscious of no fear. Rather,
they originated in a strange besetting desire to know what to do
when the time came; a desire gigantically disproportionate to the
few swift moments to which it referred; a wondering that was
more like the wondering of some other spirit within his, than his
The hours went on as he walked to and fro, and the clocks struck
the numbers he would never hear again. Nine gone for ever, ten
gone for ever, eleven gone for ever, twelve coming on to pass
away. After a hard contest with that eccentric action of thought
which had last perplexed him, he had got the better of it. He
walked up and down, softly repeating their names to himself. The
worst of the strife was over. He could walk up and down, free
from distracting fancies, praying for himself and for them.
Twelve gone for ever.
He had been apprised that the final hour was Three, and he knew
he would be summoned some time earlier, inasmuch as the
tumbrils jolted heavily and slowly through the streets. Therefore,
he resolved to keep Two before his mind, as the hour, and so to
strengthen himself in the interval that he might be able, after that
time, to strengthen others.
Walking regularly to and fro with his arms folded on his breast, a
very different man from the prisoner, who had walked to and fro
at La Force, he heard One struck away from him, without surprise.
The hour had measured like most other hours. Devoutly thankful